Nationality: American. Born: New York, New York, 29 August 1939. Education: Attended the Fashion Institute of Technology; graduated with honors from the Parsons School of Design. Career: Worked as design-display artist at Henri Bendel department store while attending the Parsons School of Design, early 1960s; became a fashion designer and opened his own boutique, Paraphernalia, 1960s; worked on television commercials and designed packaging and clothing for the Revlon Group, 1960s; moved to Los Angeles and entered movies as a costume designer, 1972; designed costumes for The Time of the Cuckoo , presented at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, 1974; made directorial debut with made-for-television movie The Virginia Hill Story , 1974; made theatrical film debut with The Incredible Shrinking Woman , 1981; executive produced television pilot, Now We're Cookin' , 1983; directed first stage production, Speed-the-Plow , in Chicago, 1989; directed music video The Devil Inside for rock group INXS; co-executive produced and directed pilot episode of the television series 2000 Malibu Road , 1992. Agent: Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A.
The Virginia Hill Story (for TV) (+ sc)
Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill (for TV) (+ sc)
The Incredible Shrinking Woman
D.C. Cab (+ sc)
St. Elmo's Fire (+ co-sc)
The Lost Boys
A Time to Kill
Batman & Robin
8MM (+ co-pr); Flawless (+ sc, co-pr)
The Church of the Dead Girls
Play It as It Lays (Perry) (costumes); The Last of Sheila (Ross) (costumes)
Sleeper (Allen) (costumes); Blume in Love (Mazursky) (costumes)
Killer Bees (Harrington) (for TV) (production designer)
The Prisoner of Second Avenue (Frank) (costumes)
Sparkle (O'Steen) (sc); Car Wash (Schultz) (sc)
Interiors (Allen) (costumes); The Wiz (Lumet) (sc)
Slow Burn (Chapman) (for TV) (co-exec pr)
Foxfire (Taylor) (for TV) (co-exec pr)
The Babysitter (Ferland) (exec pr)
Interview in Interview (New York), September 1977.
Interview with Janet Maslin, in New York Times , 21 June 1985.
"Joel Schumacher," interview with A. Michaels, in Cinefantastique (Oak Park, Illinois), January 1990.
"Schumacher's Cat-related Theory," interview with Susan Morgan, in Interview (New York), July 1990.
"A Movie about Everything That Drives You Nuts," interview with G. Fuller, in Interview (New York), March 1993.
"The Last Romanov," interview with M. Dargis, in Village Voice (New York), 2 March 1993.
"A Director, His Life Redeemed, Savors the Summit of Success," interview with Bernard Weinraub, in New York Times , 3 March 1993.
"Riddle Me This, Batman," interview with B. Bibby, in Premiere (New York), May 1995.
"Visual Flair, a Hip Sensibility, and a Past," interview with Bernard Weinraub, in New York Times , 11 June 1995.
Schumacher, Joel, "Long Shot," in Premiere (New York), August 1996.
"Another Schumacher Summer," interview with J. Roberts, in DGA Magazine (Los Angeles), no. 3, 1997.
"What Is DVD?" interview with R. Pandiscio, in Interview (New York), May 1997.
"Holy Split Personalities," interview with Ingrid Sischy, in Interview (New York), June 1997.
"The Mayor of Gotham Speaks," interview with M. Miller, in Newsweek (New York), 23 June 1997.
"Radiance and Shadow," interview with Michael Fleming, in Movieline (Los Angeles), February 1999.
Talley, Andrea Leon, article in Women's Wear Daily (New York), 17–24 October 1975.
Silverman, Stephen, article in New York Post , 4 August 1987.
Farrow, Moira, "Making Cousins: An Excursion," in New York Times , 5 February 1989.
Lew, Julie, article in New York Times , 16 June 1991.
"Filmografie," in Segnocinema (Vincenza, Italy), January/February 1992.
Brennan, Susan, article in Newsday (Melville, New York), 23 February 1993.
Clark, J., "Joel Schumacher Has Something . . . To Say," in Premiere (New York), March 1993.
Lantos, S., "From Rags to Riches," in Movieline (Los Angeles), April 1993.
Biodrowski, S., "Batman Forever," in Cinefantastique (Forest Park, Illinois), no. 4, 1995.
Lantos, S., "On a Wing and a Prayer," in Movieline (Los Angeles), June 1995.
Vaz, M.C., "Forever and a Knight," in Cinefex (Riverside, California), September 1995.
Reid, C., "Joel Schumacher, Director," in Cinefantastique (Forest Park, Illinois), no. 1, 1997.
Reid, C., "Batman & Robin," in Cinefantastique (Forest Park, Illinois), no. 1, 1997.
Major, W., "Bat out of Hell," in Box Office (Los Angeles), May 1997.
Pizzello, S., "Heavy Weather Hits Gotham City," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), July 1997.
Webster, A., "Filmography," in Premiere (New York), July 1997.
* * *
Joel Schumacher's background as a fashion designer, display artist, and package designer prepared him for his entry into the film industry as a costume designer. Similarly, he was primed for his career as a feature film director by his work as scriptwriter on several features, and especially as scriptwriter-director of two impressive made-for-television movies: The Virginia Hill Story (a based-on-fact chronicle of mobster Bugsy Siegel's moll, that is a variation on Warren Beatty's Bugsy ); and Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill (a well-done comedy-drama spotlighting various characters involved in a talent show at a Southern roadhouse).
All of Schumacher's films have been generic Hollywood product, filled with all the gloss their budgets could buy. His debut feature is The Incredible Shrinking Woman , a distaff reworking of the 1950s science-fiction cult classic The Incredible Shrinking Man. Lily Tomlin plays a housewife whose continuous exposure to chemical products results in her beginning to shrink. The film starts out as a wickedly clever spoof of the plight of the American housewife; as Tomlin becomes smaller, she symbolically takes up residence in a dollhouse. But it soon degenerates into a frantic and silly farce. While The Incredible Shrinking Man is a classic of its kind, The Incredible Shrinking Woman became yet another forgettable Hollywood comedy.
Among Schumacher's better works are Dying Young , the deeply moving chronicle of a fatally ill cancer patient and the woman who befriends him; Cousins , an amiable Americanization of Jean-Charles Tachella's smash-hit French romantic comedy Cousin-Cousine; Flatliners , a fast-paced drama about medical students who make themselves temporarily legally dead so that they may experience afterlife episodes; and Flawless , the well-intentioned and well-acted story of a conservative, retired security guard who suffers a stroke, and is forced to bond with his neighbor, a drag queen. Schumacher also directed two slick but solid adaptations of John Grisham novels: The Client , in which a lawyer represents an eleven-year-old boy who has come to know more than he ought to about Mafia dealings; and A Time to Kill , about a white lawyer who defends a black man who had shot and killed the two rednecks accused of raping his daughter. And he made the entertaining if special effects-laden Batman Forever , in which the famed superhero goes up against the Riddler and Two-Face.
The second wrung of Schumacher's credits includes D.C. Cab , a so-so comedy about a taxi company operated by oddballs; The Lost Boys , about a gang of adolescent vampires; St. Elmo's Fire , a brat-pack soap opera; and Batman & Robin , a flat, uninspired sequel. 8MM is the flashy but unpleasant story of a private detective/family man bent on determining if the star of a snuff film did indeed die on camera. Perhaps Schumacher's most unique work is Falling Down , an allegory featuring Michael Douglas as a stressed-out Modern Man who goes haywire while stuck in traffic on a Los Angeles freeway and begins a violence-laden odyssey across the city. Like The Incredible Shrinking Woman , the film is an attempt to make a statement about the perils of contemporary American society. And also like its predecessor, the result is only intermittently successful.
As the years have gone by, Schumacher's proficiency has allowed him to be assigned more prestigious, higher-budgeted projects. In his better work, he has been able to combine surface gloss with strong dramatic elements.
—Audrey E. Kupferberg, updated by Rob Edelman